From Harleyville to Beulah Land
From Harleyville to Beulah Land
The Story of George Ashbury Harley and Lydia Elizabeth Williamson of North, SC and Their Ancestors, Descendants, and Stories
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Author June Gardner wondered to whom she owed her Christian heritage. Did her good fortune come to her because of the faith of her fathers? Could she find evidence that her ancestors were Christians who passed their faith and teachings on to their children? Through research into her family, she found tombstone epitaphs, obituaries, and other old records assuring Gardner that most of her ancestors were Christians. This is their story.

From Harleyville to Beulah Land

is both a genealogy reference as well as a captivating narrative revealing interesting details about ancestors and descendants. During the tracing of her roots, Gardner realized her family story is one of great contrasts. While her paternal great-great-grandfather was said to have been a scoundrel, Gardner’s maternal second great-grandfather, was a fine, churchgoing family man. Dark secrets and tragedies are soon revealed.

Contained in this volume are over one hundred photographs and maps, twenty-three charts, and six appendices which include old family documents, poems and recipes. An index makes this family history especially conducive to researching names, places, and subjects.

A fascinating family history from a Christian perspective is chronicled in From Harleyville to Beulah Land —all while revealing the joys, mistakes, and sorrows of past generations, ultimately illustrating God’s loving forgiveness of those who accept Christ into their heart.

Seemingly John I. Harley was born into wealth and prominence a year after his parents married, making him their firstborn child. He is believed to have been born on the Livingston-Harley Plantation, which owned many slaves. One of the slaves was likely a girl named Rachel, born on the family plantation in 1832. When John was twenty and Rachel was thirteen he is believed to have fathered Rachel’s firstborn child, Jack. Two years later she gave birth to another son, Bill. (Their names are given later, after the Emancipation Proclamation, when they were named in the 1870 Census in Alabama.) John and his now-widowed mother, Betsy, may have been at odds, causing him to move away from their plantation onto land, either he bought with money received from his father’s estate, or land that was previously owned by his father and/or grandfather. John had participated in a suit against his mother in 1850 concerning the ownership of land in the North Edisto River area which had been sold to Betsy’s brother, Frederick, the year before at public auction. The land John owned was on the Cow Castle Tributary of the Four Holes Swamp section of the county, about forty miles from where he was raised. Who knows? That may have been how John met Mahala because she also lived in the same general area. Or, Betsy may have sent John away along with his favorite slave and her two part-white children. She may not have approved of John’s lifestyle. John seemingly lived amongst the Harleys in the Harleyville area; or, at least in the Dorchester County area where David Gavin lived and practiced law. This would account for how David Gavin knew John well enough to name him in his diary in an entry on November 28, 1855. John married a girl from the Four Holes area, Mary Ann Mahala Bullock. The 1850 Census lists the Bullocks as Family Number 117 and John Harley as Family Number 175 in the area described as “Between the River Road from Orangeburgh C. H. to Branchville and Four Hole Swamp, Orangeburg, South Carolina.” John was enumerated as living alone, twenty-five years old and a planter having assets listed at $200. According to the book Orangeburg District 1768-1868 by Daniel Marchant Cullen (1881) John had one slave. The slave was likely Rachel, his mistress. Rachel and her two Mullato children were probably living at John’s place. That may be the reason John and his wife Mahala were not living together when the census was taken. We know John and Mahala were already married because Mahala Bullock was enumerated as Mary A. M. Harley in the 1850 Census living in the household of her mother, Mary Bullock. I doubt John’s wife Mahala knew about his slave Rachel, and the children he apparently fathered, before she married him. Mahala was probably a naive teenager when she fell in love and married John. Evidently John continued having a relationship with Rachel and their children after he and Mahala married, likely causing their marital problems. In 1853 Rachel gave birth to a daughter, Ann. She was born between the births of John’s two sons by Mahala—George Asbury, born in 1851 and Irving Sylvanus, born in 1855. In the book, The Diary of David Gavin, by David Gavin, he made the following entry in 1855: …the abuse Henry Inabnet has given his wife who was a Miss C. Rigby, and Jno. Harley his wife who was a Miss Bullock, and Dr. M. West, his wife who was a Miss Rumph, and particularly the latter, (the three last within a few years and months) has almost convinced me that the more a man abuses and ill treats his wife the closer she will cling to and the more she will undergo and bear for him. All the above except Mrs. West on separation from their husbands were dependent for support on their parents and friends…… Mrs. Harley swore her life and went back in two weeks this fall.” (p. 9.) This quote is evidence John and Mahala had a rocky marriage and he was an abusive husband. When this entry was made in David Gavin’s diary their youngest son, Irving Sylvanus (IS) was still an infant. According to an article in the book, Men of Mark of South Carolina, Volume III about Irving Sylvanus Harley, Mahala died when Irving was just three years old. Although we do not have the exact date of Mahala’s birth or death, we can assume by this and the 1850 Census she was born in 1830 and died in 1857 at the age of twenty seven. Why did Mahala die so young? Was she ill or did she succumb to the abuse of her husband? She evidently had a premonition of her impending death, as she specifically left the children in the care of her mother. Either she was ill and knew she would likely die or she feared for her life at the hands of her husband, John. Seemingly, shortly after Mahala died, John fled to Alabama. We know he did not take his two sons with him but apparently he did take his slave, Rachel, and their Mulatto (part-white) children.

JUNE M. GARDNER accepted Christ when she was seven. Throughout her fifty-seven years of marriage, she has served as the pastor’s wife of ten churches in five states. A former preschool curriculum writer, June and her husband, Norman, currently live in upstate South Carolina, where he continues to pastor. They are the parents of two sons and have four grandchildren. June currently enjoys researching family history.

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